Make a plan before you speak and watch office negotiations go from strained to smooth sailing.
Only a third of employees worldwide say they are engaged in their job, and 17 percent say they are actively disengaged. That’s according to an April 2011 report from consulting firm BlessingWhite, and it corresponds with a multitude of other surveys reporting that workers feel undervalued and most have one eye on the door.
So how can you reel back in disconnected employees and coworkers?
“You want someone you can trust and who will protect you,” says Jonathan Sprinkles, BBA ’99, a leadership trainer and motivational speaker who has worked with organizations including Dell and the U.S. Armed Forces. “And when you do that, now you have implicit connection.”
And connecting with people — rather than merely communicating — is the key to engaging and influencing them, Sprinkles says.
“Communicating is getting information off your chest,” says Sprinkles (right). “The essence of connecting is that it begins with the other person. What do they want? What are they stressed about? What you want is a byproduct.”
Think of how we often talk to children. We frame requests in a way that benefits them. If you clean your room you can go to the park.
In addition to being more thoughtful about the intent and context of a message, Sprinkles says connectors and influencers should eliminate adversarial words that threaten to derail a conversation.
Using these words — see some examples below — can provoke an unconscious reaction in the other person.
“People may not even know it’s happening, but they’ll actually tense up so they will not go along with what you say,” says Sprinkles. “It’s like splashing a glass of water in their face.”
Instead say: I wish. “When you say ‘unfortunately,’ that’s called a negative subconscious trigger and people automatically bristle up for what’s next,” Sprinkles says. Saying, ‘I wish there were more positions available’ is an entirely different spin than saying, ‘Unfortunately you didn’t get the job.’”
Instead say: You can. This doesn’t mean you give permission for everything, Sprinkles clarifies. It’s outlining the circumstances that would make the person’s request possible. “You can have a raise if you justify that expense through your work.”
Instead say: Yes. This is similar to “You can’t/You can.” Acknowledge what you do agree with or use “Yes, if …” to identify the conditions required to gain your acceptance. The goal is to keep the conversation moving positively, Sprinkles says.
Instead say: What you want the person to do. “If you say, ‘Don’t hesitate to call me,’ the mind hears the ‘Don’t,’” Sprinkles says. “If you say, ‘Call me Monday morning,’ they really believe you. ‘Don’t’ is not an actionable command.”
Instead say: And. This construction, “I think it’s a good idea, but I don’t know if it will work,” sets up an obstacle. Try to phrase your message so that it advances the discussion forward. “I think it’s a good idea, and I need you to clarify how you see this working.”
By swapping out these negative words for more empowering ones, everyone is more likely to feel connected and heard, resulting in a more engaged and productive workforce, Sprinkles says.